Spain

Plaza de Toros, Ronda

Ernest Hemingway loved Spain. He fought against the fascists in Spain’s civil war against and wrote about it in novels, news articles, and short stories. In one of his less literary moments, he refers to Ronda in Death in the Afternoon, “There is one town that would be better than Aranjuez to see your first bullfight in if you are only going to see one and that is Ronda. That is where you should go if you ever go to Spain on a honeymoon or if you ever bolt with anyone. The entire town and as far as you can see in any direction is romantic background.”

Ronda certainly is romantic but bolt with anyone?

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Puente Nuevo, Ronda

Puente Nuevo (“New Bridge”) is Ronda’s pride and joy. Built around 1760, it’s the newest of three bridges that span “El Tajo,” the 450 foot gorge dividing the city. You can see the water fall of the Rio Guadalevin at the base of the bridge. The small room in the middle of the bridge just beneath its roadbed was once a prison and is now an interpretive center.

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Help Me, Ronda

I am in Ronda, Spain, famous for its bull fighting ring, Hemingway’s stories of the bull fighting ring, the town’s location over a spectacular 450-foot-deep gorge, and its lack of vegetarian options. In my walks through this charming “white village” of Andalusia, I’ve been searching for a pair of size 38 walking shoes, apparently rare in other Spanish cities I’ve visited this month. I found a pair in Ronda! Que alivio!

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Bitter Oranges

The Old Jewish Quarter in Granada, Spain, is full of wonderful murals. I saw dozens of them today on a walking tour with Hadrian, who has devoted the past ten years to the city’s street art. But I want to talk about orange trees. I chose a photo of a mural honoring Syrian refugees because it shows an orange tree. Orange trees line the streets of Granada and many other Andalusian cities. At this time of year, they are full of bright, heavy fruit. The original trees were brought here by either the Romans or the Muslims, depending on who you ask, and modern Spaniards love them. But, they tell you, don’t eat the oranges! They are very bitter! They will make you sick!

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The Alhambra. Incredible but Sheesh.

The Alhambra is one of the most beautiful historic places I’ve ever visited. Overlooking the city of Granada, the site is 26 acres of gardens, fountains, and castles originally built by Muslim rulers and later adapted to suit Spanish kings. Although the site is beautifully restored and maintained, I never felt a sense of peace or mystery there. Visitors used to complain about “gypsies” hustling them outside the complex. Today, they can complain about employees hustling them inside the complex. I had to show my ticket and passport 6 times in an hour and fend off mansplaining tour guides. Visitors are required to walk along a roped off, pre-established route where you just know hidden cameras are watching. I left feeling like I’d misbehaved.

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Aljama Mosque, Cordoba, Spain

Yesterday, I took the fast train from Madrid to Cordoba in Spain’s Andalusian south. About 1400 years ago, Muslims arrived here from the Middle East. They made beautiful Cordoba the capital of their western empire and built the Aljama Mosque as a tribute to their religious beliefs and their political power. By 1492, Ferdinand and Isabella (think Christopher Columbus) began the violent expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Muslims, as well as members of the well-established Jewish community, which had been in Spain before the birth of Jesus.

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Lavapies, Madrid

On Friday, I went on a walking tour to see the murals in the neighborhood of Lavapies with Mimi and Gerardo, both artists themselves. I loved the mural behind them for its playfulness. You can see the reference to Matisse’s dancers in the top mural. Below, the mural is taking a poke at itself: the word “Spectaculum” means a place of entertainment and refers to the way street art can gentrify a neighborhood. So far, Lavapies retains its international not-gentrified character, and is full of immigrants from all over the world with a very strong sense of community.

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